REVIEW: The Strange Satire of X-Factor #2

Headshot TV Logo/Banner, from interior page of X-Factor 2 (2020) by Williams, Baldeon, et. al

Leah Williams and David Baldeon kicked off the new X-Factor last month with the story of Jean-Paul Beaubier (Northstar) gathering a team to investigate the death of his sister, Jeanne-Marie Beaubier (Aurora), in hopes of resurrecting her on Krakoa. This month’s issue begins with Aurora and Northstar’s reunion and quickly moves to X-Factor’s newest case, a mysterious murder that takes them into the Mojoverse. This issue keeps up the offbeat humor and heart of the series, while adding in some fun meta-commentary and intrigue.

X-Factor #2

Joe Caramagna (letterer), David Baldeon (art), Ivan Shavrin (cover art) Israel Silva (colors), Tom Muller (design), Leah Williams (writer)
Marvel Comics
August 26, 2020

The cover to X-Factor 2 (2020) by Ivan Shavrin
The cover for X-Factor 2 (2020) by Ivan Shavrin

Aurora acts as a framing device for this issue. At the start, we see her emotional return and frustration and curiosity at the strange new team, as she delivers the clue that sets them off on their next adventure. While X-Factor explores the Mojoverse, she calmly pet-sits for them and watches their adventure unfold on screen, acting as a stand-in for the reader. This provides a lovely touch to the entire issue and seems to continue directly into the next issue. Not only does she give us a new take on X-Factor’s personal dynamics and their home, the entire story is seen through her comforting female gaze.

I worried last issue about Williams and Baldeon focusing more on the deaths and disappearances of characters than their lives, and that’s simply not the case here. Aurora’s a very minor female character in the grand scheme of X-Men comics, but she gets to come back to life and enjoy it. She adds a further personal touch to a team that already feels very down to Earth. I look forward to seeing more of her as the ongoing story unfolds, and her significant presence in this issue gives me hope that the book’s cast will grow and change as they find and revive more missing mutants.

X-Factor 2 (2020) Interior Art Page, by Leah Williams and David Baldeon
X-Factor 2 (2020) page depicting Mojo ranting to X-Factor

Williams and Baldeon do a great job updating Mojo for current relevant satire. He is still a showman and a lover of reality TV, but here he broadcasts his games through a streaming app, Headshot TV, advertising live gaming and viewer interaction. I have probably a dozen friends who’ve started or revamped their Twitch channels in the last month, and it was truly uncanny to see the X-Men stuck in a Twitch-esque competition for their lives. One billboard in the Mojoverse reads “STREAM!!! Like your life depends on it!” and I both laughed and sighed at how relevant that felt. We even see the stream chat at one point, rife with fictitious viewers both poking fun and swooning over the various characters.

Muller’s design and Caramagna’s lettering provide for countless small funny moments as part of the tapestry of the Mojoverse. X-Factor’s use of data pages and text within the narrative continues to be more creative than any other Dawn of X title. We see internet headlines surrounding the murder (a partially obscured one reads “Blood On The Dancefloor”), an ominous ad for Headshot TV, and a diagram of the top five Mojoverse livestreams. These are nothing like the bureaucratic Krakoan documents usually seen in the recent X-Men books. In contrast to their formality and seriousness, the data pages in X-Factor are silly and strange. The ad for Headshot TV concludes “We’re Your New Family”, encapsulating the overwhelming intrusive feeling virtual events and Zoom calls have taken on recently. Whether this was created pre-Covid or not, it pokes fun at the current always-online culture, something that’s only escalated this year. The satire feels fresh and relevant and actually funny, when it could’ve easily felt stale and overdone.

Interior page of X-Factor 2 (2020) by Williams, Baldeon, Shavrin, Muller, and Silva, depicting an ad for Headshot TV, Mojo's livestream app/network
An advertisement for Mojo’s livestream app/network Headshot TV, that X-Factor seeks to investigate

It helps that both the creative team and the fictional characters themselves are very self-aware, even poking fun at the current X-Men line’s success and popularity, and the strangeness of X-Factor within the line. Mojo knows mutants are popular again, stating “mutants are hot, hot, hot right now! Krakoa bumps the feeds!” and “we love the muties. Mojoworld can never get enough”. He also remarks “I do wish you were the more famous X-Men” and refers to X-Factor as “bargain bin, public access, after-school special uglies”. Even with a team of C and D-listers like X-Factor, Mojo will still experience a ratings bump showcasing mutants in 2020. I wouldn’t be surprised if the shadowy figure who leaves a clue sending X-Factor to the Mojoverse also has some stake in raising the ratings.

Mojo even takes cues from Krakoa himself. Krakoan society relies on “the Five”, the group of mutants who work together to bring mutants back to life. Similarly, the Mojoverse centers around its own “the Five”, a group of the top five streamers on the Mojoverse. The issue creates a strange and subtle parallel between the two of them, and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out next issue as the team will confront Mojo’s “five” to solve the mystery and escape the Mojoverse. X-Factor continues to be a welcome addition to the Dawn of X lineup, offering a unique queer spin on current mutant society.

Sasha Fraze

Sasha Fraze

Sasha Fraze is a professional comic book gremlin. You can find her on Twitter at @schlocking where she's probably sharing random thoughts about comics new and old or retweeting trans news and memes.